Destination Prices & Sales Taxes
Alcohol, Tobacco, and Luxury Goods
In the section Do Your Homework, I mentioned that it might be worthwhile to buy certain products at your destination, depending on local prices. Conversely, it also might be a good idea to buy Duty Free on your trip out, if you’re going to expensive countries like Scandinavia or Singapore.
Below are some links to domestic prices of alcohol and cigarettes around the world. Further down, I’ve listed links to the local websites of some luxury retailers, as well as the local VAT/GST rates, so you can determine where you can get the best deal.
Alcohol Prices Around the World
This Global Brand Prices website (click here or the image) shows average global domestic prices for several major spirits brands (Johnnie Walker Red, Smirnoff vodka, Bacardi rum, and Gordon’s gin). You can choose pretty much any currency you want. The bottle size they use is 700 ml, versus the general 1 liter bottle sold in Duty Free. You have to multiply the 700 ml price by 1.43 to get the equivalent Duty Free price, or multiply the Duty Free price by 0.7 to get the equivalent domestic price.
Please remember that these are average prices, not the lowest ones and should be used for indicative purposes and to get a feeling of how price levels compare around the world.
To find domestic prices for specific brands (including wine) in specific locations, including US states, use the the Wine Searcher website.
Cigarette Prices Outside the US
Numbeo has a good site showing the Marlboro pack price in most countries around the world. You can have them displayed in any currency you want. (Click here or the image).
I did a quick spot check, and most of the prices are correct or close.
Cigarette Prices in the US
Cigarette prices in the US vary significantly by state, and range from around $6.00 per pack to a high of over $13.00 in New York. They’re typically low in southern and western states, and high in the northeast and California. These US cigarette prices on a state by state basis are from mid-2017, but they’ll give you an idea of what to expect and whether or not it’s worth buying Duty Free on your way over. (Click here or the image.)
VAT, GST, and Sales Tax Rates Around the World
You may remember that these taxes, except for US and Canadian sales taxes, are usually included in the prices, so the rates of VAT or GST are not a percentage of the retail price. Here’s a detailed VAT conversion table to translate those rates into a percentage of retail price.
VAT and GST Rates Outside the US
US Sales Taxes By State
US sales taxes vary by state, city, and even county and range from zero in 4 states to a combined average of just under 10%. Moreover, contrary to most other tax jurisdictions, prices don’t include taxes, which are only added when you pay. There are only two states which have a mechanism to recover part of the sales tax – Louisiana and Texas. Otherwise, the only way you can avoid the tax is to have the goods shipped outside of the state where you bought them. Here’s a link to a table of US sales taxes by state. If you’re looking at this table on your smartphone, you should turn it sideways to see the full width.
You might also be interested in the specific sales tax rates in major US destination cities:
Atlanta – 7.75%
Chicago – 10.25%
Los Angeles – 9.5%
Miami – 7%
New York City – 8.75%
The following luxury/designer retailers show their prices online in a number of countries. Combined with the VAT rates and Global Blue’s fees, you should be able to determine how attractive the destination price is for you, whether downtown or at the airport.
Louis Vuitton Global
Louis Vuitton France
Louis Vuitton Germany
Louis Vuitton Hong Kong
Louis Vuitton Italy
Louis Vuitton Korea
Louis Vuitton Japan
Louis Vuitton Taiwan
Louis Vuitton UK
Louis Vuitton US
Piaget Hong Kong
Piaget Italy – go through Piaget International page
Use the Global Blue Refund Calculator to determine how much of a refund you’ll actually get.